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China Offers Aid to N. Korea - 2004-04-22


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is back home, after a short and secretive visit to neighboring China. Chinese authorities are confirming he did not return to Pyongyang empty-handed.

China's Foreign Ministry says Beijing offered North Korea aid during Kim Jong Il's visit this week.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, says the aid comes without conditions.

Mr. Kong says China is offering aid because of the severe economic hardship North Korea is facing, and because of the two countries' historic friendship.

He did not specify what China's aid would be, but two possibilities are energy and food - both of which are needed in impoverished North Korea. He adds, the amount of aid will be limited, and that details are being worked out with Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Il met with top Chinese leaders during his three-day visit, which the two countries are calling "unofficial." China's Foreign Ministry says the North Korean leader pledged patience and flexibility on the issue of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capability.

The United States and its regional allies are demanding North Korea immediately, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang says it will only do that, if it receives a security guarantee and economic aid from Washington before and during the dismantling process.

As North Korea's only remaining major ally, China has played a central diplomatic role in multilateral talks on the issue.

Beijing has hosted two rounds of six-party talks on the issue, involving both Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the United States. China says, during his visit, Kim Jong Il committed North Korea to another round of those talks, which may take place before the end of June.

Separately, the North Korean government is sending signals it may oppose the participation of Japan and South Korea in the next round of talks.

A North Korean committee is accusing South Korea of acting as a spokesman for Washington. The committee said Pyongyang might try to keep South Korea out of the talks if it does not stop, "dancing to the tune of outside forces."

Pyongyang is also reportedly threatening to exclude Japan if it does not drop the issue of abducted Japanese citizens from negotiations. North Korea has admitted kidnapping at least 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.

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